Amaya Inc. has announced that the company has received their official licenses from the UK Gambling Commission for both PokerStars and Full Tilt, guaranteeing that those brands will be able to continue operating and offering online poker and casino games in the country.
The Rational Group brands, which were purchased by Amaya last year, were required to apply for licenses because of the UK Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act which went into effect late in 2014.
When that legislation came into force, Amaya (as with most other operations who chose to remain in the market) received temporary continuation licenses for their brands, which allowed them to remain in operation while the UK Gambling Commission evaluated their applications. Before that time, the sites operated legally in the nation as they were white-listed thanks to being licensed in the Isle of Man.
“We are very pleased to receive operating licenses in the UK, which is a large and growing market for us,” said Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications for both Amaya and PokerStars. “We continue to build upon PokerStars’ leadership in poker in the UK and intend to leverage our scale and expertise to become market leaders in casino and sports betting.”
Licensing Looked at Financial Security, Regulatory Record
The UK licensing process looks at a number of different factors during the review process. A few of these include a look at the integrity of the games on the sites, the financial history of the company, what anti-money laundering protections are implemented by the site, and how well the company conforms to regulatory standards around the world.
One of the most important factors has to do with how well player funds are protected by each operator. According to a press release from Amaya, the UK Gambling Commission uses a rating system to determine how well each site protects such funds.
The release points out that PokerStars and Full Tilt both use the “highest standards” by having a trustee hold UK player funds separately, similar to the approach PokerStars has used for all player funds for many years now.
“We believe the UK licenses illustrate the strength of our platforms, our regulatory approach, and our commitment to integrity, security and consumer protection,” said Hollreiser. “PokerStars and Full Tilt now hold licenses from a dozen European jurisdictions.”
UK Gambling Act Brought New Taxes, Stronger Controls to Market
The UK Gambling Act signified a major change in the way that the UK regulated online gambling. Previously, there was no tax on foreign operators who were allowing UK customers to play poker or make other bets on their sites, as they instead generally paid taxes in the jurisdictions where they were based.
This will no longer be true, as the act included a new point of consumption tax that went into effect beginning in December 2014. The Act required operators to be licensed in order to accept UK customers; as part of that licensing, however, operators also became subjected to the new tax, which meant they had to pay 15 percent of their revenues derived from UK residents.
While the UK is a major market, not every company decided that it was worth sticking around after that tax went into effect. Mansion Poker decided early on to withdraw rather than seek a license, as did Pinnacle Sports. Operators in Gibraltar have taken legal action in an attempt to overturn the tax, though these efforts have so far been unsuccessful.